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Sir John A. Macdonald: Loving it?
Re Kingston’s History Lesson: How To Handle Legacy Of Canada’s First PM (Sept. 30): I commend Kingston for treading cautiously in dealing with the legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald. Here in Victoria, city council voted to remove the Macdonald statue outside City Hall, but many people thought the decision deserved further discussion.
Macdonald held views that are now considered reprehensible, even if they were acceptable in his time. But revisionist interpretations do little to help with reconciliation, in my view, nor do they place historical figures such as Macdonald in context, balancing the good and the bad. I think Canadians would want to know the whole story, warts and all.
David B. Collins Victoria
Looking at history through our current view of rights and obligations feels like historical-cultural imperialism. The actions of people who lived before our time could never reflect our current morality and thoughts.
Sir John A. Macdonald certainly got things very wrong with some of his actions, including his treatment of Indigenous people. But he is recognized in Kingston, and across Canada, for bringing about confederation and being our first prime minister – that is as it should be. We can add footnotes about some of his other actions, but we shouldn’t attempt to erase him.
Poor choices in our younger years give way to wiser outlooks – just ask Justin Trudeau. Our country is no different.
Pamela Pastachak Ridgeway, Ont.
To defenestrate Sir John A. Macdonald because his 19th-century perspectives fail to align with those of the 21st seems historically ignorant.
While it’s true that Macdonald held views on race and culture that do not hold up to scrutiny by the standards of today, it should also be noted that he lived at a time when people believed illness could be alleviated through bloodletting and that a person’s propensity for criminal activity could be determined by mapping out the bumps on their head. On the other hand, he was instrumental in creating a free, prosperous country governed by the rule of law. Democratic nation-builders such as Macdonald laid the foundation for that to happen.
Matt Watson Orillia, Ont.
On the subject of a possible statue to commemorate Mohawk woman Molly Brant: If one plays at historical revisionism, be careful – she was a very important figure in the late-1700s, but she was also a slave owner.
Craig Sims Kingston, Ont.
As a Kingstonian, I propose a simple way to address, at least in part, the legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald. The city could commission the creation of a piece, very close to Macdonald’s statue, which depicts a smallish boy struggling against the elements as he plods down a short segment of rail line. It would include the epitaph: “Chanie Wenjack. Born Jan. 19, 1954. Died Oct. 23, 1966.” To make this juxtaposition really work, Macdonald needs to stay up on his pedestal.
Bob Petrick Kingston
Andrew Scheer’s résumé
Re Liberals Call For Saskatchewan Oversight Authorities To Investigate Scheer’s Insurance-agent Claim (Sept. 30): Andrew Scheer’s claims of previously being an insurance agent seem reminiscent of the descriptions of Stephen Harper as an “economist.” The former prime minister has a master’s degree in the subject, but has never actually worked in the field.
Looking at myself, I hold a degree in zoology and a doctorate in medicine. While I have worked as a physician for more than 30 years, I do not consider myself, claim to be or expect anyone to consider me a zoologist.
My grandmother used to say that what constituted a lie was the intent to deceive. And Mr. Scheer has accused Justin Trudeau of lying to Canadians and that he has lost the moral authority to govern. We should carefully judge Mr. Scheer, and all our political leaders, by that standard.
David Hughes Glass Owen Sound, Ont.
Challenging Bill 21
Re For Jagmeet Singh, Identity Is A Double-edged Sword (Sept. 27) and Quebec Sued By Three Teachers In Latest Challenge Of Secularism Bill (Sept. 27): That Jagmeet Singh, along with the rest of our federal party leaders, have failed to clearly condemn Bill 21 feels like a stain on Canada.
The fact that three brave Quebec teachers are challenging the province’s religious-symbols ban in court is another example that, when political leadership demurs on important moral issues, it so often falls to individuals to stand up for their, and our, rights.
Remember that, in 1937, Quebec passed the Padlock Law which targeted communist propaganda, but in practice, the law disproportionately affected minorities in the province. It was finally struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1957 after an individual tested the law in Switzman v. Elbling. Then there was Roncarelli v. Duplessis in 1959, when the same court ruled the then-premier overstepped his authority in revoking the liquor licence of Frank Roncarelli, a Montreal restaurant owner and active Jehovah’s Witness. We now look back on that era with bewilderment, as to how a political culture could even contemplate such institutionalized prejudice against minorities.
Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms was supposed to change all this. But when political leaders and citizens look the other way at injustice, we can only hope that courageous individuals and our courts will rescue us.
Julian Heller Toronto
Re Netflix Says It’s Exceeded Canadian Spending Commitment (Sept. 26): It’s important to note that a big portion of Netflix’s content spending in Canada goes to “foreign location and service” productions that are creatively driven from Hollywood – but don’t tell Canadian stories and rarely, if ever, put Canadian screenwriters and directors in the top jobs. Shows that dress up our streets to look like Anytown, U.S.A., shouldn’t qualify as true Canadian content.
Service production is thriving, thanks to healthy Canadian tax credits and a low dollar. What we’re missing are opportunities for our world-class talent to tell our stories. Are we going to accept that service production is the most we can hope for in our own country? Foreign streaming services look to be displacing our broadcasters and playing by entirely different rules.
Canadian cultural policy should start levelling the playing field. Amplifying our own voice is essential to our existence as a distinct country.
Maureen Parker executive director, Writers Guild of Canada; Toronto
Climate change at street level
Re The Kids Are Not All Right (Sept. 28): Last week, six million people – including myself, a Grade 12 student – took to the streets around the world to demand climate action.
What we see as the unrelenting burning of fossil fuels and the ignoring of the scientific community’s warnings left us no choice but to scream for world leaders to finally care about our future.
But the future consists of more than election promises. Reduction of carbon emissions is more than a photo op. Rhetoric, “greenwashing” or smiling more does not help to fight climate change.
I believe us youth will convince governments to act. If taking to the streets is not enough, we will do something more powerful: We will soon vote. We will campaign. We will reward those with a concrete climate plan.
Our politicians can still choose to take action. But time is running out.
Andrei Adam Oakville, Ont.
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